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NASCAR’s Chase Grid Live offers fans chance to get close to Chase Grid in Chicago

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With just a handful of races remaining before the 2014 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup, NASCAR has announced that Chase Grid™ Live Sponsored by Toyota and Sprint will make its debut in downtown Chicago on September 10-11.

The free outdoor fan fest located on North Michigan Avenue, will culminate with a two-hour live show featuring all 16 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers, just days before the momentous Challenger Round debuts at Chicagoland Speedway.

For the fans, there’s an opportunity to enter the Chase Grid™ Live Sweepstakes, which has several benefits. By entering at, fans have the opportunity to win the Grand Prize package of an all-inclusive VIP experience in Chicago.

That includes two VIP access passes to all three national series races at Chicagoland Speedway, a ride in the Toyota Camry Grand Marshal car before the NASCAR Sprint Cup race, and $1,000 spending money. Fans can enter the Chase Grid Live sweepstakes through August 29.

“The first thing is you want to get in (the Chase),” Matt Kenseth told MotorSportsTalk; the Joe Gibbs Racing driver currently sits highest of those on the Chase grid without a win, in fifth overall and 13thh on the grid behind the 12 race winners.

“We have a bit of work to make sure we get in there. When you’re in Chicago, you get ready for the race, but also celebrate the accomplishment of being part of that group when you in get the Chase.”

This year’s Chase is a new format, revealed at the beginning of the season.

“There’s no better way to introduce our new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format than by inviting our fans – the most loyal in sports – to be a part of the celebration,” said Steve Phelps, NASCAR chief marketing officer. “We are fortunate to have partnered with two world-class brands in Toyota and Sprint to provide an unforgettable fan experience as we embark on this significant moment for our sport.”

Kenseth hailed Sprint and Toyota’s involvement with Chase Grid™ Live.

“It’s cool they put it on, so the best thing is to go to the website, check it out and try to be part of it,” he said. “Sprint’s brought us to a new level of technology. It’s helped advance our sport, with the Fan View and all kind of different things, doing things that are fun for the fans.”

A Chase regular – Kenseth has qualified for the Chase every year since its 2004 introduction, with the exception of 2009 – he also appreciates the atmosphere of the fan event before getting down to business at Chicagoland Speedway.

“The whole week is fun. It’s a busy time when you’re trying to do the stuff for the fans. But you’re there for them,” he said.

“The event can be more fun; everyone’s different with different personalities, and comfort levels. Gathering can be more fun after the season because of less stress, less pressure.

“There’s no off weekends from here. From Saturday night at Richmond, you’re trying to think about racing for a championship for 10 straight weeks. You’re into business mode.”

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Simon Pagenaud

Simon Pagenaud
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, with a look at Simon Pagenaud’s first season at Team Penske.

Simon Pagenaud, No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet

  • 2014: 5th Place, 2 Wins, 1 Pole, 3 Podiums, 8 Top-5, 12 Top-10, 59 Laps Led, 8.6 Avg. Start, 8.8 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 11th Place, Best Finish 3rd, 1 Pole, 2 Podiums, 4 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 132 Laps Led, 5.2 Avg. Start, 10.6 Avg. Finish

The 2015 season was always going to be a weird one for Simon Pagenaud, in his first season with Team Penske, adapting and adjusting to being with what’s widely regarded as one of the best if not the best teams in the sport. From a career standpoint he needed to move on from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, where he overachieved for three seasons. And given what became of the Honda aero kit this year, having a Chevrolet at his disposal was always going to be a benefit.

In actuality, Pagenaud didn’t have a bad year, but it was one where the burden of expectation probably hurt his overall stats more than the reality of the situation.

Let’s face facts – he’d finished in the top five in points each of his first three seasons back in IndyCar the last two years, won four races and been in championship contention before. Take all that, apply it to Team Penske and you’d assume wins and title contention would follow, but it didn’t. Still, it was a new team, a fourth team, and that took time to gel.

His qualifying was dynamic, which went against his career form and was markedly improved. His average leapt from 8.6 to 5.2 this year, which was third best in the field. The problem? It trailed two of his three teammates, Will Power and Helio Castroneves, and was only one spot clear of Juan Pablo Montoya.

And then – and there is no easy way to put this – there were his finishes. In 12 of 16 races this season, Pagenaud finished worse than he started. For a driver renowned for making the most of his circumstances on race day, often times things went south when all the marbles, all the points were on the line. Some you could put down to strategy or particularly in the later part of the year, sampling different setups to aid his title-contending teammates.

There were highlights, in particular his speed at the three 500-mile races. Pagenaud was probably the quickest of the four Penske entries at Indianapolis, scored the pole in Fontana and also starred in Pocono, but he didn’t have results to back it up in any of the three. Contact at Indy halted what was certainly winning potential. He also scored a pair of thirds at Detroit race one and Mid-Ohio, although those were cases where he was lucky rather than good.

It was hard to view Pagenaud’s season positively on the whole because you know his potential and ability hasn’t gone missing. But finishing 11th in points when your three teammates end second, third and fifth is definitely a tough pill to swallow, and an early motivator to make the fast Frenchman a top comeback driver in 2016.

Nicky Hayden announces World Superbikes move

ALCANIZ, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 25:  Nicky Hayden of USA and Aspar Team MotoGP rounds the bend during the MotoGP of Spain - Free Practice at Motorland Aragon Circuit on September 25, 2015 in Alcaniz, Spain.  (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)
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2006 MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden will leave the series at the end of the season ahead of a move into the World Superbike Championship in 2016, it has been announced.

Hayden has raced in MotoGP since 2003 and is currently the only American rider racing in the series, but has struggled to match the form of his early years, scoring just 13 points in 2015.

It had been rumored that Hayden would be walking away from MotoGP at the end of the season for some time, but this has now been confirmed in a statement from WorldSBK.

Hayden will join Honda’s factory team in the rival series, racing alongside Michael van der Mark. The 34-year-old will bid to become the first rider to win both MotoGP and WorldSBK titles.

“Well, my next stop is Superbike with Honda! I’m very excited, obviously, to stick with Honda; it’s where I’ve had the most success in my career,” Hayden said.

“World Superbikes is a championship that I followed closely as a kid when a lot of American riders were fighting at the front. It just seems like the right time and the right team to go with.

“I know I’ve got a lot to learn and it’s going to be a big challenge, but also I’m very motivated to start and learn what I can.

“I’d like to say thanks to everyone who has supported me through my MotoGP career. We had a good run but now it’s time to move on and try something different.”

Hayden’s departure acts as another blow to MotoGP’s profile in the United States, which has seen a downturn in recent years.

The exit of Ben Spies from Yamaha in 2013 was followed by the loss of the race at Laguna Seca the same year, while last month, it was confirmed that Indianapolis would not be returning to the calendar in 2016, leaving just one US round on the schedule.